Rick Rubin's Content Empire
Free Lossless Costs Artists, Nobody Wants To Work (Concerts) Anymore, Amy Winehouse NFT
As Editor-In-Chief of URB Magazine in the mid-’00s, one of my primary duties was deciding who should be on the cover of each issue. This might sound like a flex, but far from being a king-making edict set forth by divine will, selecting a cover star was often a humbling negotiations between the editorial staff (who had opinions), the publisher (who had bills to pay), and the publicists (who controlled access).
In the end, artists we featured were usually based on a combination of creative output, cultural cache and current interest. But one man had an open invite to appear whenever he chose to. And he never chose to. Rick Rubin.
For much of the ’00s, Rubin seemed like an inaccessible genius, hidden away in the studio or stacking Grammys for his work with Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Once every few months, I would dutifully send an inquiry to Rick’s people, who would dutifully send back a polite “not now.” The situation became so mythologized around the office that when Lynn Hirschberg’s epic profile on Rubin dropped in 2007 in New York Times Magazine, it felt like receiving a tablet from Mount Sinai (or in this case, Malibu).
It’s therefore somewhat ironic, to me at least, that Rubin has since become a veritable spring of content—first with the Showtime documentary series Shangri-La that took viewers inside his famed Malibu studio, then with the Broken Record podcast where Rubin takes turns with Malcolm Gladwell interviewing everyone from Huey Lewis and Tyler, The Creator to Ozzy Osbourne and Andre 3000 (who we did secure for a cover in 2006).
This week it was announced that the latest entry to Rubin’s content cannon—a six-part series where Rubin interviews Paul McCartney titled McCartney 3, 2, 1—is coming to Hulu on July 16th. And who can blame Rubin for jumping at the chance to break down some of Sir Paul’s greatest songs while shot in moody black and white.
But if anyone reading this has a line to Rick, please let him know that the invitation to talk is still open. It’ll just have to be the Substack.
Salient statements from this week’s industry news.
When two streaming giants trade revenue for market share, consumers win but artists pay the price.
Takeaway: Is music currently sustainable with so many companies relying on revenues from streaming services that are making a loss and are subsidized by tech giants or investors? Can this digital music landscape be sustainable without asking consumers for a fairer price?
Recovery for the concert industry is going to require more than just getting people back into venues.
Takeaway: “If you're a music employer not offering a real competitive salary, wage or consistent work, people won’t come back.”
The industry seems most comfortable with NFT collectables when the cash grab goes to a good cause.
Takeaway: Philanthropy has emerged as a popular use case for NFTs, a form of digital collectibles bought and sold on the blockchain.
The DIY digital distro platform is building the team to take its parent company Believe onto the Paris Euronext stock exchange.
Takeaway: At TuneCore, Sebber will have a nine-figure turnover business under her purview.